14 responses to “Settle Down Now: Is community the new frontier for Generation X?

  1. jen

    I stumbled on this. Wonderful, fresh ideas regarding Gen X. Bravo!!!

  2. The neighborhood I live in (Cleveland-Holloway in Durham, NC) is slowly filling it’s vacant/abandoned homes with Gen X’ers and the first of Gen Y’ers and we’re attracting new residents based a lot on our explicit goal of building community and working to integrate ourselves into the existing community that has been in the neighborhood for 30 or 40 years.

    It has been at times a difficult process, but ultimately very rewarding. Many of us are worried about the evils of “Gentrification,” but also aware that what had existed before us (drug dealers running the neighborhood, and substandard housing) wasn’t good either. I also know that I am personally afraid our tight knit community will eventually tear at the seams as we get older like some indie movie with Mark Ruffalo. Fingers crossed this community thing works out.

  3. Great stuff, thought provoking even. There’s a flip side to the coin of GenX rebellion against boomers, which kind of goes like this: GenXers (I’m one, born in ’72), who have spent all this time coming up with workarounds, many of whom are now settled like you say, decide to pick up and reorganize everything?

    Virtual communities are around and exist largely as a function of technology and as an outlet for failings in our physical surroundings. Example: if you work with a bunch of Baby Boomers in real life that you have trouble connecting with, it’s easier for you to connect with like-minded, similar individuals online that you wouldn’t have been able to meet before the web came along.

    It’s pure speculation on my part and it may be a bit outlandish, but we may be about to see something more profound: a re-definition of what it means to be part of a community.

    Right or wrong it will be interesting to see how this evolves.

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  5. Professorpinch, good thoughts. Here is Howard Blackson’s take on that:

    Community is the New Technology. Cultivated by the refined technology of our personal / handheld computer devices, we now have greater access to and within our own society. This technology has given us new found access to land we already inhabit. This is seen in the rise of social networks as we are able to communicate more easily with our own places and re-connect in ways we haven’t for several generations; such as community farms and gardens, glee clubs, and civic events.

    More here:

  6. Reality check

    In short, we’re anti-corporate, anti-mass consumption, and anti-mass culture. I believe it. Unfortunately, we’re trapped in it more than ever before. It may take the next generations to free us all.

  7. Dan

    I am not sure I agree with the “idealistic” part. Never thought of it that way. A bigger challenge for the genration is the shear size. 80+ million boomers moving out of the workforce and 70+ million millennials moving in. Gen X may get squeezed out.

  8. What you don’t hear much about hyper localists and urbanists is their reconciliation w/ race, class, and persistent poverty where they now live. Gen X, Gen Y, Urbanists, whatever we call them, act as if the city didn’t exist until they showed up. The reality is that many residents of urban cores have been left behind or forgotten, an afterthought for the last 30-50 years. Lets have some real talk of the dynamics that come into play when trying to build community in forgotten neighborhoods; resentment, anger, and zenophobia.

  9. Scott Doyon

    One small clarification, Dan. My use of the word “idealistic” was to characterize the dot-com boom, not Gen Xers. That is, the initial rise of internet mania carried with it a prevalent sense that the events in motion were capable of solving more problems than was actually the case (or at least not as quickly as was theorized). Thanks for the thoughts.

  10. Mike

    Slam-dunk valuable, personally and professionally. You rock and thanks!

  11. Kyle

    As a gen XY (’81), I have become more and more disillusioned by the immorality and flat-out corruption in local politics. To the point that as I become more educated to the subtle tit-for-tat backroom dealings of city government in history, the more I recognize it as just as prevalent now. I am of the opinion that, until the Boomers are out of office, and their questionable practices with them; these local movements are subject to infection akin to the teaching of racism (this is how my daddy taught me…). The drive for “local”, in both economy and autonomy is admirable, but the radical attitude must be real. I think the key is in neighborhood politics, especially in Cincinnati (my hometown). Move where the attitude is a match and you will be happy; move for schools/taxes/real-estate values, and you set yourself up for failure.

  12. @kyle, I’m an XY, ’81 like yourself, and I’ve worked in politics, and I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of backroom politics. I think the best we can do is push for more transparency in public, and pushing for community involvement in governance.

    I am by no means an expert on this, but I just read Camilla Stivers book, Governance in Dark Times, and she does a great job of expressing the importance of citizen involvement in government and in communities taking responsibility to address their own problems. Perhaps this is a similar idea to Gen X looking to work around traditional power structures.

  13. Nice article. Didn’t the baby boomers tell us and devised a plan that in order to get ahead: we need to go to college, have a decent career, have a 401 k plan, get a house, and etc.
    It’s the classic, white picket fence mentality that is still in governing our society. The 2.5 children, the pressure to own a home, and keep the lifestyle to support their ( boomers) reality. Oh please. How many people in our generation can afford that? I am a free lance writer slumming it in a studio apt with my husband.
    Give a dog a bone. I know many people in our generation that are living with their parents in boomer central. At one time, Allen Ginsberg and the Beatnik pact were able to slum it as an artist. Now, I need a second job to support my writing, let alone my basic needs. Can I get a witness?-We need a change.

  14. @Bill Smil, I was the second person to comment on this post, and as an urbanist living the racial and historical complexity of this issue was the first thing I commented on. I don’t know that it gets covered in the papers much, but I think the majority of people moving to neglected neighborhoods are acutely aware of their histories.

    These issues have been at the forefront of our conversations between new and old neighbors, and there are no easy answers. The most important thing, I think, is to build relationships (through community) with the people who have lived there for 30 years. When we have neighborhood meetings, we don’t have a neighborhood board or president, we have facilitators that ask questions. And we try to go door to door and flyer before each meeting because we know a significant percentage of people don’t have email or don’t want to be on the neighborhood list serve. We haven’t had any real issues of anger or resentment in our neighborhood, and I think the point where the old residents decided the new residents were ok, was when we hosted a big neighborhood block party complete with food and multiple kegs.

    From the beginning of our nation’s history we have been severely segregated and the suburbanization of the Post War era only made things worse. I think integrating communities for the first time, and building strong, vibrant, diverse communities is the only answer. And gentrifying spaces so they become all white or all black or all latino, etc. isn’t the answer either.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts or experiences about how new neighbors can integrate better into old neighborhoods.

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